SE College's Powerline tech training centre opens in Weyburn

With a snip of a power line, Southeast College marked the official opening of their Powerline Technician Training Centre on Friday afternoon, located in the RM of Weyburn in Evanston Park.

Several dignitaries were on hand for the event, including MP Dr. Robert Kitchen, MLA Dustin Duncan, Mayor Marcel Roy, RM reeve Carmen Sterling, Chamber of Commerce executive director Twila Walkeden and Janice Giroux, chair of the board of governors of Southeast College.

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With this facility, Southeast College is the only regional college in Saskatchewan to offer an apprenticeship program for the full four years. The facility provides both a hands-on training lab as well as classroom space.

The college responded to a request for proposal from SaskPower, with a team assembled to put a proposal together, led by Darcy Nolte. They were informed in January of this year they were successful, and the college then moved to set up the training centre in Evanston Park.

They will be starting in October with two cohorts of 10 students each, and the classes will be set up to observe the requirements of public health to prevent the spread of COVID-19, said Nolte.

In his remarks, Dr. Kitchen said education is a very important part of the community, commented it’s tremendous the college is able to provide this training to certify journeymen powerline technicians.

“These are exceptional and talented men and who can do this skill,” said the MP. “Having all four levels of what has to be done, it’s great they have this training centre here.”

Duncan, who is minister of the Environment and the minister responsible for SaskPower, noted that powerline training has a long history in Weyburn, as it was provided before powerline technicians was designated as a trade in 1975. SaskPower had a training centre at North Weyburn in the 1950s before it moved to their facility on the Souris Valley grounds in 1977.

“It plays a critical role in helping SaskPower serve 550,000 customers in Saskatchewan,” he said. “I want to thank Southeast College for their diligence in putting forward a very good proposal and showing a wide diversity of programming here.”

He also noted he is a proud alumni of Southeast College, and thanked the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission, which is an important partner with the college in ensuring the proper level of training is provided.

When Reeve Sterling was introduced, it was noted she acted as a mentor for one of the programs at the college, with the RM also providing a scholarship for students in that program.

“I want to recognize Southeast College not only for the college’s contribution to the southeast area, but for their community involvement,” said the reeve, noting that as an example, the Swing for Scholarships golf tournament helps to provide scholarships for as many students as possible at the college.

She also noted the RM had developed the Evanston Park industrial area to try and attract more businesses to the area, and this training centre is a good example of the growth of businesses there.

Mayor Roy said he recognizes the role the college plays in the community and in providing training, and noted that power is an important pillar of Weyburn, such as having Nexans located here, manufacturing the powerline cables and wires.

“The college has done a wonderful job of bringing this centre to Weyburn and stabilizing it, as opposed to letting this go to another community,” said the mayor.

From the Chamber of Commerce, Walkeden said the goal of this organization “is to foster economic growth in our community, and from the local economic growth standpoint, this training provides many benefits to the local community.”

She noted that students who come here for training will eat at local restaurants, buy gas here and get accommodations here, providing a secondary economic impact that will help aid local businesses to recover from the impact of the COVID pandemic.

Walkeden also applauded the partnerships between the college and the RM, and between the City and RM in fostering local development and growth.

Jeff Ritter, CEO of the Sask. Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission, was also on hand, and noted that Southeast College is a trusted partner of the commission.

“COVID-19 has created an incredibly challenging situation for the post-secondary industry, and I know that Southeast College will provide a safe and efficient training environment as they assume the role of training,” said Ritter, noting that technicians have been training in Weyburn for many years already.

Giroux, who has been a board member since 2013 and chair of the board since 2018, said she was proud that the college received approval in January and will have their first cohorts in training by October. She also noted that as of the 2020-21 school year, Southeast College will be the first regional college to have cohorts across all four levels of powerline technician training.

Nolte said in an interview after the ceremonies that an apprenticeship will first have about 1,800 hours of experience before coming to the powerline technician program for Level 1, then they will have about 30 hours of online training and two weeks of hands-on training at the centre.

Once they complete four years at the centre, they will have worked about 8,000 hours altogether, and will be certified as “red seal” journeymen, which means they could work as powerline technicians anywhere across the country.